UK Car Road Test

Volvo S60 2.4 Bi fuel 2002

 


Cost New N/A    Residual @ 3 years 40%
Produced from  Oct 1 2000 to Mar 1 2003

Have Volvo finally got there,  a good looking dynamically able car, but with all those essential Volvo qualities built in.

The Volvo S60 made its UK debut way back in October 2000 at the Birmingham Motor Show. With its  introduction Volvo has finally been able to shake off its staid middle aged reputation and compete with premium brand rivals such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

The S60 fills the middle range in Volvo's lineup: It's larger than the S40, but obviously not quite as large as the premium-luxury S80. Not surprisingly, the S60 also fits between those models in price.

But for us it hits the nail right on its sizeable head. Not too big and boat like, but usefully sized and large.

Okay I admit it up front, I own a Volvo already its my second Volvo.  I admire its strength and its build quality and its space.

But it looks like a shoe box, I can not defend it. 

It is downright ugly. It also performs like a three legged dog and handles like a canoe in a typhoon and drinks petrol like a Shieks Range Rover. But despite its age and tattyness, its reliable, always starts, always gets to the destination and has required minimal work to keep its aged architecture rolling on the highways. Ive had settees (and not small ones) in the back and even a motorcrosser got squeezed in there.. Ignore the frequency of the wallet withering visits to the garage forecourt and its a perfect piece of utilitarian transportation.

But this S60 is something different, I'm not going to say its pretty because its not.  But it is muscular,  and it is good-looking only of the macho, handsome, Swen-in-a-cable-knit sweater kind of persuasion, rather than any feminine / feline slinky prettiness.

The corporate line is that the S60 was designed as a "sports saloon"  which is going a little far, it shares the distinctive new Volvo family styling characteristics of an egg-crate grille, prominent shoulder lines, V-shaped bonnet and distinctive rear lights. The S60 range includes Petrol, Diesel and this the Bi-Fuel engine variant, all of  which are complemented by high standard specifications.

Styling is grown-up and understated, with distinct Volvo DNA. The designers have done a superb job of bringing the new traditional looking Volvo design cues into the 21st century. It is pleasing to the eye and won't look unfashionable next year.

The Volvo S60 does look like a smaller version of the big S80 saloon. Not a remnant remains of the "boxy but safe" styling that Volvo championed so doggedly for decades. Which is good as the S80 is itself a good looking bruiser of a car. Volvo says the S60 represents 'the essence of contemporary Scandinavian design'.  What ever we like it and it dont look like IKEA to us.

From its bulging flanks, through its arch filling wheels to its sensibly short overhangs it generates a tough butch stance. It looks wide and it is exaggerating interior space too.

Normally this kind of  Everton Blue (officially Azure Blue) is hard to pull off  but the S60 carries it surprisingly well. and bar a rather splendid metallic silver one almost looks like the choice pick of the colour range. It gives the S60 a sort of haughty naval look. 

It helps too that some of the chrome which started to festoon the larger Volvos after the Ford buy out has been trimmed right back 

As we have come to expect from Volvo everything about the S60  is driver orientated. The cabin is simple, ergonomically laid out and packed with innovative features to reduce the strain of modern driving.

The interior styling of the S60 is the epitome of Swedish style combining both functional elements and very understated elegance. The cabin exudes a high level of build quality and the fascia has been angled towards the driver for maximum ease of use. In fact the dashboard is home to a vast array of logically positioned controls which look as though they may have been borrowed from an aircraft but fortunately they all correspond to the comfort and convenience equipment of the S60.

There are cupholders in the dashboard, front tunnel console and two set within the rear armrest which also features a storage box. There are also pockets in the front seat backs and incorporated into the front of seats (front seats) for the stowage of maps etc and a rear waste bin.

The dashboard flows in a pleasant shape. The quality of the material used to cover other surfaces is good. The gauges are attractive, with their flat grey background, and easy to read, while the switches are intuitive and easy to use. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls are well designed and easy to operate, with big buttons that use Volvo's clever metaphoric design to direct the airflow. Electric window buttons with auto-down are conveniently mounted on the door. Inside door handles are easy to grab.

The center console storage is positioned rearward, so it's hard to reach for short drivers. The cup holders, mounted just forward of the console, are covered with a flimsy lid. There's another mini cup holder on the center of the dash. 

 

Convenience features common to every S60 include air conditioning with a pollen filter; power windows, boot release and door locks; illuminated visor mirrors; a boot  light; a tilt/telescopic steering wheel wrapped in leather; headlight wipers; folding headrests; 60/40 split-folding rear seat; cupholders front and rear, steering-wheel controls for the audio system; and remote keyless entry.

According to Volvo's press literature the S60 designed under Volvo's British Executive Design Director, Peter Horbury, mixes sporting design with real world practicality and executive levels of luxury, comfort and driving pleasure and we couldn't agree more bar the sporting bit.

The S60  has ample cabin space for 4/5 adults and certainly an average family of 5 so long as they are of normal European build. Despite its swooping, coupe like roofline head and leg room is good , taller rear passengers may find the rear door entry space a bit tight as a consequence of the swooping rear design.

Volvo was the first car manufacturer to improve driver comfort by studying ergonomics and introducing adjustable lumbar support backs in 1964 and, after nearly 40 years of continuous research, crash testing and innovation, Volvo now to claim its seats can reduce whiplash injuries by 50 per cent. 

That all getting a bit to scientific for me, and is not something I wish to put to the test (ever), Without doubt the seats in the S60  are some of the most comfortable we had ever had the pleasure to experience. Your whole body feels comfortable and supported including the thigh to knee area which reduces overall leg pressure on a long drive. 

Front and rear electric windows, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, cruise control, illuminated driver & passenger mirrors, front & rear readings lamps. All are nice little touches that add to the pleasure of ownership

 

Comfort Features
Adjustable Steering Column
Adjustable Steering Column
Centre Arm Rest Front
Centre Arm Rest Front
Centre Arm Rest Rear
Centre Arm Rest Rear
Cup holders
Cup holders
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Front Door Bins
Front Door Bins
Head Rests (front & rear)
Head Rests (front & rear)
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Pollen Filter
Pollen Filter
Split rear seats
Split rear seats
Time Clock
Time Clock
General Features
12 V Accessory Power Point
12 V Accessory Power Point
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Mirrors
Colour Coded Mirrors
Digital Odometer
Digital Odometer
Exterior Side Mouldings
Exterior Side Mouldings
Heated Rear Window
Heated Rear Window
Tinted Windows
Tinted Windows
Luxury Features
Air Conditioning
Air Conditioning
Cigarette Lighter
Cigarette Lighter
Cruise Control
Cruise Control
Electric Mirrors
Electric Mirrors
Electric Windows (front & rear)
Electric Windows (front & rear)
Heated Mirrors
Heated Mirrors
Radio Cassette
Radio Cassette
Trip Counter
Trip Counter

 

 

 

Bi-Fuel facts and figures

Are Bi-Fuel cars slower and less responsive?

Although there is a minimal drop in power when running on gas, there is no noticeable difference in performance when powered by gas under normal driving. Also, there is a very quick and smooth transition during the changeover between fuels. (personally I could not feel any difference and was happy to just use gas power)


Does the gas tank take up space in the boot?

The fuel system has been engineered by Volvo itself and is integral to the design of its cars. The gas tanks in the latest S60, V70 and S80 Volvos are completely hidden under the rear floor and offer exactly the same load space as the standard models, while there is only a small raised area in the floor of the S40 and V40 which still leaves a clear platform for carrying long loads, when required.
Note: The only limitations imposed by the gas tanks are:
- the optional extra seat in the rear of the V70 is not available
- there is no spare wheel. Volvo advises carrying a tyre fix can or tyre pump
- some bass speakers under the rear floor of estates are unavailable

( so there is no spare wheel but AA or RAC membership will compensate for that and keep your hand clean)

Where is it converted?

Itís not. Unlike some other manufacturers Volvo produces its Bi-Fuel models on the same production lines as its standard models and are sold with the full Volvo UK 3-year, 60,000 mile warranty.

(so there is no problem with detonating engines or melting mechanicals)

Why not just get my own car converted?
Volvo's own bi-fuel models are likely to always be superior to any after-market conversion as they are specifically designed for Volvo, produced in its own factories, sold with its full 3-year 60,000 mile warranty, and fully integrated into the car with special switches on the dashboard and gas fuel gauge alongside the petrol one on the instrument panel.


Is a Bi-Fuel car safe?

Like any Volvo, Bi-Fuel models are rigorously collision tested in accordance with Volvoís high standards. The gas tanks are tested in a variety of extreme conditions (including heat, high pressure, fire and pistol shots) and to greater limits so they are stronger than the comparable petrol tanks to allay any safety concerns. A closed fuel system prevents fuel spillage and evaporation.

Hasnít Volvo sold Bi-Fuel models before?

Yes. Volvo has pioneered alternative fuelled vehicles and marketed earlier gas-powered vehicles. It is now the first manufacturer with a fully warranted Bi-Fuel range with the latest, discreetly integrated, under-floor gas tanks.

What is the towing capacity of a Bi-Fuel model?

Volvo Bi-Fuel cars have the same towing capacities as the equivalent petrol models.

Thats the guff but whats the reality first check the cost of motoring.  33p a litre as opposed to what 88p a realistic 25mpg average and 30 on the motorways if you take its semi easy  (tank to tank figures)   equivalent to  25mpg petrol -- Dual fueled  66mpg not bad for a big car like this.  30mpg  petrol on the Motorway  roughly equivalent to 80mpg dual fueled , now thats marvellous.

 

Starting is easy and strange procedure free. If the weathers cold it starts on petrol, if its warm on gas. Once started a simple  button toggles between gas or petrol, with nary a splutter, stationary or moving, run out of either medium and it switches to the other. Bar taking away your choice and running automatically on gas till it runs out it could not be simpler.  

In all honesty if you did not know it was gas based you would never guess. 

And to add to the mix road tax can be cheaper too. Oh what unbridled joy.

Is there a down side to dual fuel ?????

Well yes there is.

Good old Gordon and is LPG policy.

When good old Gordon was ramping up petrol prices to save the planet, his science told him and he told us LPG was clean LPG was good. ( and it is). So as he took away money from most of us he gave a tiny bit back by frezing the duty on the then unwanted LPG.

He even went so far as to set up a trust to give grants out so the great generally public could get their dirty old cars converted right. 

WRONG. 

He set a grant system so rich people when buying a new car could get a free gas conversion at the tax payers expense,  so if you could afford one of the prescribed gas guzzler, you got free conversion and then filled your wallet with savings on running it too. SO what he did was get the new "cleanest" catalyzed cars and made them cleaner.  We should add some to this as the grant was a finite sum and ran out a few months into every year. Leaving most new cars unconverted  and old the old smokers still wheezing about. It was a bit like double insulating Redrows latest and best and most expensive and economical design of houses for rich people, and leaving all the old Victorian slum terraces with un-insulated leaky slate roofs too use coal fires.

And to make his crime worse, after the Petrol stations installed fillers at great cost, and manufactures went to the bother of offering OE dual fuels at great cost, and the first of the dual fuel converted cars (at great cost) start to find their way to the pheasants (who cant afford new cars), via the second hand market, the old plonker changes his mind says he is unconvinced of its benefits and starts to ramp up the price of LPG taking the tax freeze off of it.

Now the cynical amongst us would say that he did not tax it before as the volume was so low it was not worthy of collection, but now with critical mass achieved he can make big money by taxing  all the poor sods who believed him when he said LPG like Garlic bread was the "future"

It only goes to prove that if  hydrogen fuel cell technology ever works and we get 100mpg from water then official special car compatible water will be dealt from Government prescribed pumps via special no tamper nozzles and tanks and it will cost £8.00 a gallon.

Still if you can get hold of a dual fuel make hay whilst the sunshines and triple your annual mileage just for fun of it at Gordons expense.

 

The  motor itself is as smooth as silk and quiet as you like. The 5 cylinder engine has a smooth distant hum when cruising, changing to a pleasant warble when pushing on (as if a gas burning miser ever would).

Its a hefty old beast which explains the less than linford like sprint times, but as this is really aimed at the more diesel powered like performance. It would be interesting to see the dual fuel in T5 guise now that really would be more amusing.

Service Interval Insurance Group Safety Rating Smog Rating
12000 14 Band (D)
Engine BHP CC Fuel Inj.
5 Cylinder 20 Valve DOHC 140 2435 Yes
Cyl Camshafts Valves/cyl Compressor
5 Double 4 None
Top Speed 0 to 60 BHP per Tonne
124mph 11.5seconds 99
Kerb Weight Tow Weight Length Width Height
1427kg 1600kg 457cm 180cm 142cm
Boot Seats/up Boot Seats/Down Seats
394 Litres 807 Litres 5

The gearbox is strangely slick for a Volvo proving if nothing else that getting married to Ford does have some upsides.

 

Hardly a big deal but for the first time since the Volvo 1800 ES Sports Coupe of the 1970's the driver sits behind a three-spoke steering wheel which in the S60 tilts towards the driver. Both the seat and steering wheel are multi-adjustable which ensures that drivers of all shapes and sizes can find an optimal driving position for both safety and comfort.

The S60 is front-wheel-drive, and torque steer does rear its head, Stand on the go pedal mid corner and you'll feel a slight tug on the steering wheel. It's really no big deal, though, and the less power the version has the less its felt. Still, the S60 engages the driver, because you have to pay some attention to the steering when you're driving hard. Which in itself is quite a new thing for many Volvo owners of the past. Anything that gets your average Volvo owner to pay some attention to their driving cant be a bad thing.

It is extremely stable at speed typical Volvo so long as the road isn't very very  bumpy. The suspension spring rates are well judged and well damped giving a nice balance between control and ride.

From inside, the Volvo S60 sometimes feels bigger than it is because its shape doesn't allow you to see the four corners. Driven hard around turns, it almost seems like a '90s version of a '60s muscle car. The relatively long throw of the five-speed gearbox adding to the retro feel.

The Volvo S60 shares its basic suspension layout with its bigger brother the S80 saloon. MacPherson struts with lower wishbones at the front and an independent, multi-link set-up at the rear. This sophisticated system, coupled with exceptional torsional rigidity and importantly the widest track in the e class ensures that the S60 offers possibly the best handling chassis within the Volvo range. 

All in all the S60 can be hustled along in a brisk calm most un Volvo like manner that does its chassis real credit. 
Its handling is secure and predictable, but I wouldn't consider it 'sporty' like Volvo would like me to. If you like to throw a car around a lot go for a BMW instead. But for the 99% that you are not white-knuckling back roads with the tail hanging out, the S60 is the better car.

It feels like a big and safe car. The parts of the car that you touch switches, handles, controls are solid and firm.It is a reassuring feel of solidity, longevity, safety.

It is outstandingly comfortable, the seats, driving position, controls and suspension set-up combine to produce a very pleasant place to spend time and for most of us thats more than enough to make the s60 a winner.

The brakes are on the soft side but powerful and controllable , the ABS was very smooth in its take up too. letting you get a good stomp on before cutting in.

 

Steer/Susp/Tech Features
Alloy Wheels
Alloy Wheels
Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converter
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
External Temperature Gauge Fitted
External Temperature Gauge Fitted
Halogen Head Lights
Halogen Head Lights
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Independent Suspension
Independent Suspension
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Power Assisted Steering
Power Assisted Steering
Rev Counter
Rev Counter
Service Level Indicator
Service Level Indicator

 

 

 

Volvo is renowned for safety engineering and the S60 is fully equipped with active and passive safety features including a rigid safety cage.

Not exactly the height of  fashion.

 Minor styling effort

Statistically One in four collisions involves an impact to the side of the car. Volvo's Side Impact Protection System, SIPs, is designed to dissipate the force of any side impact around the passenger cell. According to Volvo SIPS, with side impact airbags, on average reduces the risk of severe injury in a side impact by 35%. 

Safety/Security Features
Alarm
Alarm
Antilock Braking System
Antilock Braking System
Child Locks
Child Locks
Engine Immobiliser
Engine Immobiliser
Front Side Air Bags
Front Side Air Bags
Front Twin Airbags
Front Twin Airbags
High level brake Light
High level brake Light
Locking Fuel Cap
Locking Fuel Cap
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Remote Central Locking
Remote Central Locking
Side Impact Protection
Side Impact Protection
Three Rear 3 Point Seat Belts
Three Rear 3 Point Seat Belts
Visible Identification Number
Visible Identification Number

Volvo is a leader in safety and all S60 models get a raft of safety and security items: how about  a Safe Approach and Home Safe Lighting System; what ever that is..

The following safety and security equipment is standard on the Volvo S60 : dual stage driver and passenger airbags, SIPS (side impact protection system), SIPS airbags, IC (inflatable curtain), WHIPS (whiplash protection system - front seats), ABS (anti-lock brakes) with EBD (electronic brake distribution),  5 x 3 - point seat belts, seat belt pre-tensioners (front and rear), head restraints - all 5 seats, ISOFIX child seat preparation, anti-theft alarm including immobiliser and panic function, key integrated remote control central locking including fuel flap with deadlocking system, mass movement sensor, tinted windows, visible VIN plate, daytime running lights*, headlamp leveling system, high level LED brake light, side marker bumper illumination, home safe and approach lighting.

*Daytime running lights are synonymous with the Volvo name and allegedly significantly increase other drivers awareness of your presence.

The 31 January 2005 marked the 22nd  anniversary of the compulsory wearing of seatbelts in Britain. When Volvo engineer, the late Nils Bohlin, invented the very first three-point seat belt 50 years ago he could not have guessed how many millions of lives this would help to save.  And Volvo are at the cutting or should that be cosseting edge of safety development. 

Personally I think we are hitting the point of diminishing returns. And Im not sure that all the extra weight carried by ever bigger modern cars is a positive safety feature as all that stored kinetic energy gets ever harder to disperse in a crash.

My own personal theory is that a pair of average modern cars are probably over 250kg heavier than cars of old and a two car impact has an extra 500kg to disperse, never mind the dent it makes in the economy figures. Still that's not to say  cars are not safer than ever they are, I just think weight saving will be the next big step for cars. (step forward and bow Audi A8)

The only major disappointment is the rather high insurance group despite all Volvos  Good/Anally retentive work (delete as appropriate )

 

 

Getting into the back seat requires a duck of the head. Once back there, the S60 offers more rear headroom than a BMW 3 Series sedan. An average-sized male will be a little short of legroom. Surprisingly the S60 offers less legroom than the BMW though you would never guess. This sound worse than it is and sound appalling as I look out of the window at next doors rather dilapidated  1987 316. But like sticking a new mini next to the classic issigonis version its more a reflection of the sheer size of the latest 3 series.

If you are regularly taking large rear passengers, I think an  S80 would be a better option.

To get the S60's swoopy shape, Volvo had to make design concessions that constrict the boot opening. The boot itself is roomy and deep,  it'll hold a lot ( and I mean a lot ) of small bags, but big hard-sided bags might be a challenge.its shape. It  has a standard split/fold facility which is useful for bulky items and the passenger seat folds forward to accommodate longer items which is still a good point by many a sloons standard. Volvo's practical philosophy doesn't stop there and offers a multi-function load & shopping bag holder (standard on SE models) which keeps important items upright and can be folded away neatly into the boot floor.



JD Power Survey Ratings
2002  
2003 81.9
2004 81.7
2005 82

 Dealer services by Volvo are not cheap but they do offer good quality. Once in the second hand market though and good independent should be able to look after a Volvo as they use fairly standard technology. Part whilst in general not needed too often are surprisingly good value too. Personal experience suggests that a Volvo should give you close to Japanese type reliability, even when the years and miles have racked up, but spares are available for only a small premium over the more mundane and mainstream marques like Ford and Vauxhall. You would be pretty unlucky to get lumbered with a hefty BMW style bill to keep this car going in 5 or 10 years time.

Summary

In a dramatic departure from its older traditionally  bland boring and ugly  forms, Volvo has created a striking and memorable design that is a real head turner. 

The S60 is a highly desirable alternative to more mainstream executive saloons, namely the the BMW 3 Series, C-Class Mercs and Audi A4's. If Ford and Vauxhall are just to common, but the Germans just to obvious here lies a sensible place of refuge.

Having delivered in terms of looks Volvo have also enhanced its cars dynamic qualities  the S60's wide stance means that the car feels secure in fast corners. People say the front wheel drive system is never going to give the same levels of driving experience as a  rear wheel drive system could, Unless you are aiming at a BMW that theory does not stack up to well as the Volvo drives as well if not better than a C-class, and what the hell else can you get with rear wheel drive. On the down side the steering provides only limited feedback, but again only really BMW offers something much superior. At higher speeds the cabin remains hushed , wind and road noise being very well damped.

This is the car that punches a hole in the German manufacturers only feeling of invincible quality. It has generous equipment levels, plentiful interior space, and a comfortable drive. and it even has  residuals higher than average to prove it.

From a practical perspective, the S60 is an enormously spacious car thanks to the wide body, head and legroom are also excellent front and not bad in the rear. The boot is also generously proportioned and split folding rear seats add to its versatility. The cabin is finished in high quality materials and is solidly constructed, controls are easy to find and operate.

As you would expect, no demand the S60 scored well in its NCAP crash tests (four stars) and achieved an overall rating of 82% for overall crash safety - aided by its standard plethora of front and side airbags.

It has all the sensibilities traditionally  provided by Volvo with a driving and ownership pleasure to really test the competition.

Possibly the best Volvo yet.

A Volvo to be proud of.

Overall, we strongly recommend the S60.

Popularity with business users means there are plenty of well cared for examples about. It's durable enough to be worth spending your money on.

If you are considering a 3 series or C class, or A4, or even a Saab it is a real contender, and is better in so many ways, not least in value for money. If you are the sort of chap who wears quality clothes with the brand logos on the inside, not the outside, this is one for you!

 


 

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UK Car Road Test Volvo S60 2.4 Bi fuel 2002

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